03-05/06/2017 Manas (Ponam Island) 110nm,ESE, Anchor in 12m, Sand, 2g Cell service.
The exit from Hermit on the East side is one that really needs day light. There are some markers on the inside that lead you most of the way to the exit, but after that, its all up to you. We all do these things differently but for me I like to go at snails pace when I’m dong this stuff, just in case I get it wrong. We had been told by the locals to come up from the south and it looked potentially deeper on the right, but it did not sit well with me.
We had on board the South East Asia Cruising guide which I bought back in Darwin and had found to be pretty useless not covering many of the places we went and not intuitive. Anyway low and be hold, it was there and it suggested the route you can see (Purple line) took. A little tight and I would not want another boat coming the other way or to turn around, but otherwise it was fine. I think we got down to about 3m under the keel.
Again if there had been enough wind to sail at 4knts or better we would have sailed the blue line (ENE) and tacked back down, but as I have said before, if we are going to burn diesel, may as well burn it in direct line which is what we did. Out of the 24hrs I guess we sailed (no motor) around 4hrs, and the last part of that one could not really say they were sailing, more like drifting waiting for some daylight. Watusi decided to push on to Lorengau (Manus) but I was keen to see some of the outer Islands, so slowed up.
The guys at Ponam were also very nice, very welcoming, came bearing gifts and asked for nothing in return. Again these guys have got the Tourism manual and have had the word from the government it would seem. One of the senior owners came out and spent some time chatting with us giving us his permission to stay there.
So far all the Islands we have been to in PNG they are very quick to tell you they own the Islands, the water and the reef’s. These are portrayed as traditional land owner ship rights, recognised by PNG. I thought the point of the statement might be a lead in to asking for money, but it seems that was my pessimistic westerner hat because they don’t ask for money.
We did not know it at the time, but if you see boat like the one above on the right (of which there are many) coming with a bunch of guys under 30 then keep your wits about you, they could quite well be pissed, and extremely pushy. These particular guys above weren’t like that, but you will read in a couple of blogs latter a very different experience.
06/06/2017 Pityilu Island, 26nm East, Anchor in 13m, Sand, 2G Cell. I wasn’t sure if we could travel east staying in the lagoon. it would seem the US blew a bit of trench here back in the war so we took the first exit ducking out of the lagoon and back in again near the western tip of Pityilu reef. It didn’t take long before the welcome committee came bearing gifts and some fruit. The land owner came out with the usual speech and we asked if it was ok that we anchored there. He was more than happy to have us stay and has made a bit of start to build a landing with some Resort type structure to follow. He to is keen to develop the tourism side and said he may do a paddle by after dark so don’t panic.
We were told it was safe to swim on the outer Islands just not on the main land of Manus so much, so Kim and I went for swim and snorkel around his local reef while his son watched over us.
There wasn’t a lot to see but it was good fun, good exercise and it was sufficient to maintain the elusion that this would offset the sun downers.
A few days later after we had left here, we are having a beer on the beach with locals, and they are cutting up what is clearly a huge fish and I mean huge. I am guessing its head would have been much bigger than my reserve tank of beer, chipies and chocolate cake that I carry permanently. There was a suggestion it was in the order 6m in length….and then we were told they chased it down in one of there Banana boats onto the reef just off Pityilu reef and it was one of the biggest sharks they had seen…….
06/06/2017 Butjo Island Lorengau, 8nm SE, Anchor in 5m, Mud/Sand 2G Cell Service. Lorengau is the largest town on Manas and probably for 300 to 400nm. There has been some sort of boarding’s here with yachties in the past that have not ended well So the general advice was to anchor a little out of town and behind these islands which are roughly 3ks away from the town centre. Typically I proffer either in town so there are in fact plenty of eyes watching the boat, or a long way from town where its to far for kids and the like to reach us, but in the end we followed Watusi’s lead.
There were three local boats there when we arrived, plus one sunk boat said to be Stainless !! All of which are probably over 55 odd feet and were either commercial or government owned. Sadly one of the ones we got to know was carry freight and medical supplies to the outer Islands, but the government effectively stopped paying for it, and the crew who have been looking after it haven’t been paid for about a year. So it sits there going down hill.
One of the local crew whom had offered to help us the next day said he wasn’t feeling the best and suggested he had Malaria. So I donated a few tablets to the cause which I had on board only to find out the next day in reality it was more likely a hangover.
They were kind enough to run enough to run us across to town with a small donation to fuel and hung around while we raided the bank, checked in, and did our shopping. The cost of things here is very near Sydney prices and in some cases more and many things are not available. Even chicken which Kim bought Kim bought was well below average for Asia. Even some of the Vegies are silly prices and this is not Westerner pricing, these are marked prices.
Later that day we were taken to collect my diesel which was hand pumped from a nice new 200L drum to another very clean 200L drum sitting in the Banana boat we had all day. The guys then took us back to Screensaver and pumped it into our tank. (200l @ 1.45au). Although that was a good deal I have not paid more than $1.00 au since 2014.
We were invited to a bit of cook up on board with the local guys who had been helping us out, and Ken had some Crabs to share, so we all pitched in enjoy a bit of feast. A few bears and I managed to fix there Raymarine Chart plotter. Shortly after a bottle of scotch appears as a thankyou, but now knowing how expensive that is here it was donated to the table for the night, they owed us nothing and had been very helpful. So in all a good night was had with exchanges of stories and talk about the upcoming elections here. It would seem that if the party they voted for is returned then there ship may well sail again.
10/6/2017 Kalipo Island (Bundro Isl), SE 31nm, Anchor in 5m, Sand, No Cell service. When we left Lorengau we had intended to go to Tilianu Island. It seemed nice and was possibly sailable. However Watusi has caught some of Screensavers habits and the looming black clouds prompted a call for a change in course to Kalipo, So it was we entered a nice well protected lagoon of Kalipo.
We had anchored about 200m away from Watusi and nearer the beach I had planned to visit the next day The events that follow happened over 30min period and the headlines are with media poetic licence, none the less both the Katrina and Kim were shaken and it did well to highlight the possible real risks.
As I sat enjoying my sun downer beer I could here shouting going on at Watusi and I could see a couple of Banana boats along side. I could not hear what was being said and at the time I was not sure what was going on. After a few minutes the boats left and headed our way.
Two Banana boats approached at high speed approaching way to quickly, one running into the Starboard side, and before I could stop him, he was on-board, with another trying to get on at the stern grabbing the outboard, which I just managed to save from being ripped off of Screensaver. The second one approached from the other side, also way to quickly and as i fended this off they grabbed a HF cable to hold onto and slow down, before I was able to releaser his Grip. The Starboard side guys were pissed, and I was able to get him back onto his boat and stop one of the others coming aboard. On the Port side was Dad ( Pochili Karol, Kalwuwin Chandrol) I think also a family member. All were yelling and the situation was very tense for 10-15 Minutes and slowly I was able to calm down the situation from the yelling and get out of here now, to you can leave in the morning. Again they make the point they own the land the reef and the water. The guys on the starboard side, probably all under 30 were returning from Manus having sold there Sea Cucumber and a good price and I guess drunk much of what they earnt. Dad on the Port side did not seem pissed but was far from friendly. When I explained my concern’s and about them coming back he suggested they did not have the fuel to come back and we would be fine.
Both Ken and I slept on deck that night, and Kim took over around 4:00am and in the morning we departed.
I STRONGLY recommend you do not go to this place. While I believe this was just a bunch of pissed locals and we were in no more danger than you might expect from any agro pissed person, the Farther did not appear pissed, and was as far from welcoming as you can get.
There is a definite I am the land holder mentality, I am the owner of the sea the reef and the beach, and rightly or wrongly they are reacting as you might, if someone pitched a tent on your front lawn.
Many westerners should be able to relate to what Alcohol has done to the indigenous people of there own country, I have seen it in NZ and Australia. It is irrelevant ( in this context) who you blame for this, but know that this problem exists in PNG and I have not seen it or experienced it elsewhere in Asia.